Gateway to the Classics: St. Mark by J. Paterson Smyth
St. Mark by  J. Paterson Smyth


The Glory of Self-Sacrifice

St. Mark VIII. 27; IX. 8.

"Whosoever shall lose his life for My sake
shall save it."

I N this Lesson it is best to pass over some of the details, and concentrate attention on the one thought—the Glory of Self-Sacrifice—the ideal for the earthly life, and the actual in the heavenly life. Christ's lessons about self-sacrifice teach the first; the story of the Transfiguration teaches the second.

Two questions of which I want you to find the answers to-day:— (1) What is the glory of the earthly life? (2) What is the glory of the heavenly life?

§ 1. The Glory of the Earthly Life

Read vv.  27-38. Question closely on vv.  27-31. Distinguish questions, "Whom do men  say?"  "Whom say ye?"  What were the guesses of the multitude which they heard of? What do these guesses show? No ordinary life. All felt that the beauty of that character, the wonder of those miracles, could not be explained in ordinary way. Something wonderful—divine. They could not understand the real explanation, so they guessed as well as they could. Next question? Answer? How did they know? They knew the O. T. prophecies of the Messiah, and nobody could be in Christ's close company without seeing how God-like he was; and besides, they were divinely helped to understand Him (Matthew xvi. 17). They, who of all the world knew and loved Him best, felt sure that He was no ordinary man like themselves, but the Christ of God.

Vv.  27-34.—Strange teaching followed—what? Why? Perhaps to keep them from thoughts of an earthly kingdom; perhaps to teach them what the Christ-life meant. How did they receive it? (v.  32.) It surprised and disappointed them greatly. No grandeur; no greatness; no shouting of loyal crowds at His feet. No; but a poor, spoiled life; a poor, despised, insulted man, persecuted and murdered. How could that be for the King of Heaven? God forbid! Hear Peter's astonishment (v.  32). Why so puzzled? Could not understand the real glory of life, the glory of self-sacrifice. They thought that success and prosperity and happiness and earthly glory would be the life worthy of the Christ of God. Would it? Did His life show much of seeking for such? What did it show? That He thought self-sacrifice for others' sake the noblest of all things. Even if it led to insult and mockery and death, it was a life grander and worthier of the Son of God than all the glory that the world could give. Which do you think the higher and better—to make yourself happy, or to make others happy? Which does our Lord think?

Vv.  34-38.—Therefore He began to teach them what in God's sight is the highest glory of life—what? (v.  34). "If any man will come after Me, follow in My footsteps." Some of these disciples wished to, some of you children wish to. How do it? By resolving to make yourself happy, comfortable, rich? No. By taking up the cross. Doing right when it is painful, for Christ's sake. Thinking of others' happiness more than your own. Being willing to lose what you like best for sake of Christ and for sake of others. (Illustrate from children's ordinary lives.) Thus Christ's life taught: "I am going for sake of others to lose self, to lose life, to spoil My life, as the world would think. He that would follow Me must do the same."

Did Christ lose happiness by self-sacrifice?

Shall we really lose happiness by giving it up for others and for God? No. In some wonderful way we get happier still. The inward peace of God and His blessing on our lives make up for all. So our Lord says (v.  35). He that is willing to lose everything for the sake of God and right, he shall gain beyond his wildest hopes. Tell me, then, what our Lord thinks the glory of our earthly life?

§ 2. The Glory of the Heavenly Life

Now we come to next part—Glory of the Heavenly Life. There, too, love and self-sacrifice are the chief glory. But there is more in the heavenly than in earthly glory.

Read ch.  ix. 2-8. Question closely on details. Refer to parallel accounts in Matthew xvii., Luke ix. Wonderful scene. Vision of Heaven. In the darkness of midnight our Lord and three apostles on a lonely mountain. He was praying (Luke ix. 29). They were what? (v.  32). Another time they were sleeping while He prayed (Mark xiv. 32-40). While He prayed a wonderful, awful, glorious thing happened—what? Meaning of "transfigured"? Ever see mass of cloud in the evening, dull, plain, and sad-coloured? Then the setting sun shines on it; transfigures it with golden glory; it becomes full of light and splendour; exquisitely lovely. Yet the same cloud. Something like that. His body, even His clothes, glowing with the beautiful light of Heaven—all white, brilliant, dazzling. Like a prince in disguise who had put on his royal clothes for a moment. "He decketh Himself with light as with a garment." What awe and wonder and reverence in the three apostles at seeing the plain poor carpenter's son, their companion, dressed in His real clothes. How differently they would feel towards Him afterwards!

Two other heavenly visitors also in glorious appearance—who? Think of the terror and astonishment of the apostles when they wakened up. Had they only dreamed it? No (Luke ix. 30). They had been a few days ago wondering that pain and death could come to the Christ of God; and He had been teaching them that pain and death might be very glorious things. And now, just listen to the Heavenly Three. What talking about? (Luke ix. 31.) In all the glory and dazzling splendour they talked of the death of shame on Calvary. Did they think it something to be ashamed of? No; it was the glory of the heavenly life, too, this glory of self-sacrifice. Think of the Heavenly Ones who had seen the Lord, and talked about this perhaps before He came down to earth. Think of them and the holy angels watching and thinking and talking about it in Heaven; and now these two talking about it with Him on earth. Think:—

(1) What a delightful world in the great Hereafter, where all is love, and nobleness, and self-sacrifice; where no selfish thought could exist. If it did, it would rise like an ugly little cloud in the clear sky of heaven, and everyone would be troubled by it till it melted away in the light of God's presence. Think of the glory of the heavenly life, where we shall have glorified, transfigured bodies, too; where all eternity will be occupied in planning unselfish delights for those about us, and rejoicing in the presence of the great, unselfish God, whom, at last, we are able to understand and love as we ought.

(2) Think of that same unselfishness as the glory of the earthly life. Only one perfectly unselfish life ever on earth. He lived the heavenly life here. He wore Himself out trying to help, and teach, and comfort men, and then set His face steadfastly towards Calvary, to be despised, and rejected, and tortured to death for the sake of the very people who hated and murdered Him. Then He said to all who would follow Him that they, too, must live the life of self-sacrifice, the life of the "Kingdom of God." Shall we not all try? Care for others' happiness. Bear painful things, and do unpleasant things for others' sake and Christ's sake. How could we help doing it, even if it were only to give Him the satisfaction of seeing us do it? He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied."

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